Wicked Lovely Page 20

"That's not what I meant." She blushed again and felt foolish for flirting back. She shouldn't let it get weird. A one-nighter would mess up their friendship. She was just riding some post-danger rush.

She scooted backward. "Promise you'll tell me if anything happens when I'm not there."

He stepped away then, giving her room.

She slid down. Her legs felt wobbly. "I don't like the faeries paying so much attention to you."

He poured them each a cup of tea and opened a tin of shortbread cookies. Then he put on his glasses and pulled out a stack of photocopies and books.

She picked up her tea and followed him to the sofa, glad to be back on comfortable ground.

His knee bumped against her leg as he sorted out his papers.

Well, not entirely glad.

"One way to protect yourself is iron or steel, which you already knew." He gestured at his walls. "I like knowing I sleep somewhere safe, but I am going to stop by Pins and Needles. Just to get steel rings to replace the titanium ones. Unless" — he paused and turned to stare at her—"you think the tongue thing's a good idea. Seriously, I could do that."

He watched her, an expectant look on his face now, like he was waiting for her to say something.

She didn't, couldn't. She blushed even brighter than before. He's still teasing to distract me. It had worked. Too well. She bit down on her lip and looked away.

"Right. Well, supposedly 'sacred symbols' work too—a cross, especially an iron one, holy water." He set that page aside and picked up a book with passages marked by brightly colored sticky notes. He thumbed through them, summarizing. "Spread churchyard dirt in front of them. Bread and salt are also good 'protections, but I'm not sure what you're to do with them. Spread them like the dirt? Throw them?"

Aislinn got up to pace.

He glanced up at her, and then turned back to the marked passages. "Turn your clothes inside out to hide from them…It makes you look like someone else to them…Plants and herbs that work as counter-charms: four-leafed clover, Saint John's-wort, red verbena—they all help you see through a glamour."

He put that book aside and ate a cookie, staring past her, at nothing, waiting.

Aislinn flopped back down on the sofa, farther away from him than she'd normally sit. "I don't know. I can't see walking around with my clothes inside out all the time, and I don't know about throwing bread at them. What am I supposed to do? Carry bagels and toast everywhere?"

"Salt's easier." He laid the pages on one of the side tables and got up. He pulled open a drawer on the plastic cupboards stacked in the corner. After rummaging around for a minute, he held up a handful of packets of salt. "Here. Extras from all the takeout. Stuff these in your pockets." He tossed some to her and put a few in his pocket, too. "Just in case."

"Does it say how much salt and what to do with it?"

"Sprinkle it on them? Toss it at them? I don't know. I didn't see anything in this book, but I'll follow up on that one, too. I ordered some books from interlibrary loan." He came back to the table and scrawled a note on one of the pages. "Now what about the herbs? I can pick some up. Any ideas on which ones?"

"I can already see them, Seth," she said impatiently. She caught herself—took a deep breath—and grabbed a cookie from the tin beside her. "Why would I need herbs?"

"I might be more help if I can see them too…" He wrote another note: Look for more recipes. Paste? Tea? How use herbs for sight? Chamomile tea for Ash.


"Helps you relax." He leaned over and stroked her hair soothingly, pausing to let his hand rest on the back of her neck. "You're snapping at me."

"Sorry." She frowned. "I thought I was keeping it together, but today…If Donia hadn't been there…But that's the thing. She shouldn't have been there. I've seen them my whole life, but they never paid attention to me. Now it's like they've all stopped whatever they were doing before to watch me. It's never been like this."

He stood there, twirling one of the studs in his ear, staring at her. Then he grabbed the book and sat down in the chair across from her. "Wearing daisies is supposed to keep kids safe from faery kidnapping. I don't know if the daisies work once you aren't a kid."

He dropped that one and flipped open the last book. "Carry a staff of rowan wood. If they chase you, leap over running water, especially if it's flowing south."

"There's one river here, and I don't see me jumping over it unless I sprout springs in my feet. None of this helps much." She hated how whiny she sounded. "What do I do with a staff? Hit them? And wouldn't they know I saw them if I did these things?"

Seth took his glasses back off and sat them on top of a stack of books on the floor. He rubbed his eyes. "I'm trying, Ash. It's only the first day I looked. We'll find out more."

"What if I don't have time? The rules are changing, and I don't know why. I need to do something now." She shivered, remembering the strange stillness of the faeries when she passed them. It was frightening.

"Like what?" He still sounded calm. The more anxious she got, the calmer he sounded.

"Find them. Talk to the two that started it—Keenan and Donia." She put her hand over her mouth and took several breaths.

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